Just in time for Halloween……
These stunning Moreton Bay Figs (Ficus macrophylla) are on La Mesa Drive in Brentwood. They are famous for their dramatic buttress roots that support the large trees. Here is a telling of some of their history by the LA Times. Although they are gorgeous, they are also very high maintenance (and adaptable), given that they evolved to thrive in a tropical rain forest in Australia and not in arid Southern California where we get less than 15″ of rain in a year.
One of the most famous examples is in Santa Barbara at the corner of Chapala and Montecito streets. It was planted in 1876, making it over 130 years old. Another famous specimen is in San Diego’s Balboa Park — that one turned (approximately) 100 years old this year.
But here is the spooky strangler part: certain types of ficus “…. share a common ‘strangling’ growth habit that is found in many tropical forest species…. This growth habit is an adaptation for growing in dark forests where the competition for light is intense. These plants begin life as epiphytes, when their seeds, often bird-dispersed, germinate in crevices atop other trees. These seedlings grow their roots downward and envelop the host tree while also growing upward to reach into the sunlight zone above the canopy. An original support tree can sometimes die, leaving a ‘columnar tree’, central core empty, of the Strangler Fig. Strangler figs can also leave trees hollow.” (Thanks to Wikipedia, where you can see some cool photos of other Strangler Figs.)
On the right side of this last photo, you can see one of the aerial roots growing down from a limb toward the ground — it’s dark brown compared to the light grey bark of the trunk.